As a forum moderator, you know that forums are the essence of online communities. And your job – to grow and manage a forum and online community – isn’t always an easy one. In today’s post, we’ll discuss the big picture of being a forum moderator, which includes focusing on three core competencies.

1. Voice + Venue = Value

Forums, also known as message boards and discussion groups, offer a robust interface for the kind of many-to-many communications that truly foster online community. Chat, blogs and various social networking tools have their own intrinsic value, but it’s the interface that really makes a difference in the value and depth of our conversations. It’s the voice – whether in e-mails, text messages, online reviews and more – that conveys a degree of meaning above and beyond the message. And the venue, with its ability to connect seemingly disparate users around a common subject to share information in real time, that lends credibility to the information.

2. The Big Picture

As a moderator, you’re responsible for shaping the community you want to create. Often, your role will be that of a community leader; however, leadership is defined by how you promote what you are trying to create, not how you denounce what you are against. In determining just how much control to exert, you’ll need to balance real responsibilities (such as legal issues) with personal judgments (such as what you should try to control vs. letting your users police themselves).

3. Roles and Responsibilities

Naturally, the best community leaders are those with a particular passion for the subject of their forum. These leaders are most effective when it comes to taking an active role in setting the tone of the community and creating a solid and clear framework for discussions. In this role, the moderator/leader attempts to maintain decorum, make sure topics stay within appropriate subject areas, put out fires, discourage bad behavior and generally create a positive atmosphere. The latter is especially important because moderators need to maintain a level of openness in which all members feel they can participate, even when discussions get heated. Successful forums are those that grow into trusted sources of information for both members and visitors. Beyond this, success also can be seen in the many relationships that are formed online, some friendly, others not. Remembers, visitors will quickly be able to discern whether a forum has value and is worthy of repeated visits and/or participation, and a well run community has a decided advantage of achieving this kind of success